What I’ve Been Reading Lately

book recommendations and books to read

 

I currently have 13 books that I’ve read and haven’t talked about yet on the blog. I hesitate to say I’m “13 books behind for review” because it creates unnecessary pressure on me but alas. I haven’t been doing a good job about blogging plus I’m still trying to decide if I just want to do batches of talking about what I’m reading or take the time to do longer book talks. I feel like people don’t really read reviews/book talks anymore and I want to talk about books in a way that lets me get out all my ~book feels~ and a way that is helpful for you guys in finding book recs or someone to commiserate over a book with.

Anywhoooo, here’s some of what I’ve been reading lately! Let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading also!

[Keep Reading]

What I’ve Been Reading Lately – Mini Book Talks

Times have been busy so it’s time to just let you know what I’ve been reading with a little bit about what I thought!

 

 

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

About In A Sentence (ish): Theo is a talented ballerina who has been through a lot — the disappearance of her best friend and an eating disorder that landed her in a group facility. When her best friend returns, 4 years after he went missing, secrets that Theo kept make her realize maybe she held a piece to her friend’s disappearance all along.

Thoughts: This one was my book club pick for August as I had really wanted to read it. I really liked it but I definitely didn’t OMG LOVE IT like so many of my friends did. There’s a lot going on to make it a page turner — a friend who was kidnapped returned, eating disorders, competitive ballet and a big secret that Theo has been keeping. I read it in one sitting and really felt for Theo and all the secrets surrounding Donovan’s disappearance. Theo has been through a lot, as we learn, and I really liked watching her become more free from these things and help herself and others even though it takes her a lot of mistakes to get there. Well written and definitely emotionally grittier than I thought it would be when I started!

Rating:

RATING-reallyliked

All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

About In A Sentence-ish: A blind young French girl and a young German orphan boy paths collide as they try to survive World War II — she having to flee to a relative’s home as the Germans invade and he trying to survive being thrust into the Hitler Youth as they sharpen his skills at fixing and making and dissecting radios and everything to do with them.

Thoughts: THIS BOOK WAS AS AMAZING AS EVERYONE SAID. Though I have to say I struggled with the first 50 pages. Kept falling asleep but it was probably my fault for starting a new book at night. I loved both of the main characters so much and their stories were just so well written and hit me right in the feels. Marie-Laurie is so strong and I loved her perseverance and her curiosity. Werner’s struggle with what he knew was wrong/right vs. trying to survive (while coming of age) is heart-breaking. I always seem to be drawn to WWII books even though they hurt my heart and this one is one of the best I’ve encountered! I loved the way it was told alternating between the beginning of the war and then the end when they are both in danger. The way their stories converge is just masterful. I was reading SO ridiculously fast to see what would happen next for our main characters and how their paths would meet. Just so pleased that this lived up to the hype for me!!

Rating

RATING-loved-it

 

Not After Everything Michelle Levy

Not After Everything by Michelle Levy

About In A Sentence-ish: From old friends to opposite ends of the social hierarchy, Tyler and Jordyn are thrown back together when Tyler needs a job to pay for his basic needs after his mom commits suicide and he’s left to fend for himself with his abusive father.. So much has happened since they were friends all these years ago to change their life and who they are but they find a sense of comfort in each other.

Thoughts: Woah this book was intense! Poor Tyler — what a rough situation he is in. His mom kills herself and now he’s left with his abusive dad who has only gotten worse since his mom passed. My hurt physically hurt as his story unfolded. So much to bear. I really liked the relationship between him and Jordyn as it developed though I think I would have loved this book more had it just been a friendship (though I do love a good “from hate to love” relationship). I loved how they got to know each other again after so many years and so many changes in their lives and as people. I loved how raw and honest Tyler’s perspective was even if at times he came off as so rude and brash. You could feel the immense hurt and brokenness in him. Definitely an emotionally tough book to read but really good. Also I loved the moments with he and his therapist so much. Ehhh to some of the uber high school drama that seems soo Mean Girls like.

* I received this book for review consideration. It in no way affected my opinion on the book*

Rating:

RATING-LIKED

 

Fates and FuriesFates & Furies by Lauren Groff

About In A Sentence-ish: The story of a husband and wife — first half from his POV, second half from hers.

Thoughts: Oh man I almost put this down. The first half KILLED ME. Like I gave zero shits about Lotto and wanted him to just go away. And then I got to the second part and was floored and OH MAN. Seriously, the addage two sides to every story is all you need to know and Groff is masterful as she tells the other side in the Furies section. Oh how the story, literally being told in much of the same timeline but through Mathilde’s POV, changes once you see the story told from both sides. How you view success of relationships, careers, moments in your life, interpretation of events — all in the eye of the beholder and incomplete without knowing other sides to things. Very thought-provoking and well written. Glad the second half made up for the boring first half in the best way possible. Definitely will be reading more books from Lauren Groff. Very talented!

Rating:

RATING-LIKED

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Mini Review Time: 2014 Backlog

So, I purposely took a lot of time off from normal blog things in December (reviews, discussions, etc.) and did lots of end of year lists and fun giveaways to give myself some rest. But I also did a lot of actually RESTING and doing NO blogging stuff. Which means I got a lot of reading in. I’ve created quite a backlog for myself so I’m going to just highlight some things I read recently but am not going to have a whole dedicated post about.

 

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

 

Whistling Past The Graveyard

This one was an adult historical fiction novel that takes place in the South in the 60’s. The main character is a nine year old girl named Starla who lives with her strict grandma (her dad works on an oil rig and isn’t home) and she decides to run away to Nashville to find her mom who she hasn’t seen since she was 3 when her mom left to become a famous singer. Early in her journey she gets a ride from Eula, a black lady who has a white baby with her, and the two become unlikely companions on the road. I really enjoyed this one — it was both a reminder of the harsh realities of segregation and the fight for equality but also incredibly heartwarming. Their adventure held my attention the whole time and my heart was just bursting with love by the end as family begins to take on a whole new meaning for Starla.

Rating:

RATING-reallyliked

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

AHHH the second book in Marissa Meyer’s series was EXCELLENT. We still get to follow Cinder but we are introduced to some amazing new characters — namely Scarlet but also Wolf and Thorne!! I was so excited to have Cinder’s perspective still but getting to know these other characters and watch their stories intersect with Cinder’s was something that just kept the pages turning for me! It was a great sequel that set up well for the rest of the series but still stood as an important book and helped develop some new, great characters. Lots of action and things revealed and I finished the book with racing heart from what went on and knowing what is to come!!

Rating

RATING-loved-it

 

 

All Of You by Christina Lee

All of You by Christina Lee

I haven’t read a TON of new adult romance (okay well been able to make THROUGH a lot of it — favorites are Boomerang & All Lined Up) but this one was enjoyable enough that I devoured it in one day. I was in need of a light-ish, quick romance and this delivered — and it especially delivered a new guy to swoon over for sure! Avery is into just hooking up and no commitments — a lot thanks to her mom’s mistakes that have affected her and her own desire to not turn out like her mom and rely on men and lose control of her own life. Then she meets her new upstairs neighbor — a hot tattoo artist and a virgin who wants his first time to be with someone he loves — a lot to do with his own family situation.

Their chemistry is undeniable and I kept flipping the pages to see how their very different ideas about sex and relationships would be at play considering the strong feelings they developed for each other. It was sexy and just what I needed though sometimes a LITTLE bit corny at times (but this maybe this is also me still being a newb to romance). If you don’t like pretty detailed sexytimes in your books, this might not be for you! ALSO BENNETT TOTALLY DEFIES NEW ADULT DUDE STEREOTYPES THANK YOU JESUS. And he’s hot. Did I mention that?

Rating:

RATING-LIKED

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book Review

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book ReviewStella Bain by Anita Shreve
Published by Little Brown on November 12, 2013
Genres: Adult Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

one-half-stars

 

 

 

Stella Bain, an American woman, wakes up in France in the middle of World War I and has no idea who she is. She clings to the name Stella Bain and, after she recovers from her injuries, she decides to become a nurse’s aide until she figure out who she is or what to do next. She feels very strongly about going to London to the Admiralty but doesn’t know why so she travels there on a hunch not knowing what awaits her there. Before she makes it there, she is found outside by Dr. Bridge and his wife and they allow her to stay in their home so she can get better and soon Dr. Bridge takes her on as a patient to help her try to figure out who she is.

MEH. I was so excited for this one because the premise sounded awesome and I love adult historical fiction. I hate to say it but it was completely a disappointment for me which is a shame because the first half of the book was SO GOOD — very compelling and kept me turning the pages. But then the second part happened and I felt like the story just got lost somewhere and I didn’t care anymore. I probably should have put it down but I didn’t and now I regret that because the ending REALLY didn’t nothing for me. SO MUCH APATHY FROM ME.

So let’s talk about the only part of this book that really standout for me — the first part. I was hooked immediately. The main character wakes up not knowing her name, where she is or any other details about herself. She finds herself in France during World War I and starts working as a nurse’s aide and just starts rebuilding a life under the name Stella Bain. Something triggers her and she feels like she needs to go to the Admirality in London — on a hunch. That’s when she meets Dr. Bridge and his wife by chance and they start to work on her memory. It was compelling and I felt so sorry for her and wanted to know her story. Early on we learn who she is, but then we learn her back story and how she became to be in France which was ALL very interesting. I was really loving the book at this point. It flowed very well and I was intrigued by the main character.

But then the rest of the story happened. It seemed so scattered and pointless for me. After she found out who she was, I just stopped caring. I didn’t mean to. I was looking forward to her “redemption” so to speak but it just wasn’t there for me and I struggled to keep going. There were SO many different things going on and the storylines weren’t as strong as they SHOULD have been for me. I wanted to care about what was going on in the custody battle but I didn’t because it didn’t feel entirely urgent to me — just a thing she was doing. I should have wanted this romance but it was NOT AT ALL captivating to me despite having caught the tension early on. I think I get what Shreve was trying to do with the rest of the story but it didn’t come together well in my opinion. My friend Hannah and I read it around the same time and we both agreed that we thought the story was going to focus more on the shell shock she had experienced but it didn’t really and just seemed to lose any sort of focus.

I finished this book not feeling anything at all — and that’s the worst kind of feeling for me. I’d rather passionately hate a book than feeling nothing at all.

Ultimately the worst kind of disappointment — a very strong absorbing first half as we watch Stella try to figure out who she is, her identity is revealed and her compelling back story was shared that went downhill. Then this book kind of went off into la-la land and my mind went off with it. I was bored, the storylines were clunky and not compelling and I felt nothing at all anymore.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Have you read any other Anita Shreve books? This was my first one, unfortunately, and I’m scared to try others but totally would with a good rec. Any other good books you know that are set during WWI?

one-half-stars

Before I Blogged I Read: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

BLUM_8.indd

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: August 2009

1. It’s historical fiction set during the Holocaust that tells the story of a German mother who does WHATEVER she has to do to protect her daughter and herself during the war and the daughter’s search to find out, in the present time, about her mom’s past when she finds a picture of her mother, herself as a baby and a Nazi soldier. Love the point of view of both mother and daughter and the fact that they ARE Germans because so often we never see that side.

2. One of the most powerful and best historical fiction books I’ve read. It shocked me, made my heart just shatter into a million pieces and ultimately made me cry. Definitely an emotionally hard, harrowing read but worth it. Absolutely haunting.

3. I loved the mother/daughter element to it as it is this story of the terrible things a mother will endure because of the selfless love and need to protect. Loved that the story was told from these dual point of views.

4. If you liked The Book Thief or historical fiction set during WWII I recommend this though I think this one was quite a bit harder to read concerning things of the Holocaust than The Book Thief. Definitely more intense and dark I think.

Favorite Quotes:

“Life is so often unfair and painful and love is hard to find and you have to take it whenever and wherever you can get it, no matter how brief it is or how it ends.”

“How could she tell him that we come to love those who save us?”

“”It’s like being in a sort of club, isn’t it? A bereavement club. You don’t choose to join it; it’s thrust upon you. And the members whose lives have been changed have more knowledge than those who aren’t in it, but the price of belonging is so terribly high.”

“She should have known this would happen even with him; she should have know better than to tell him the truth. She can never tell him what she started to say: that we come to love those who save us. For although Anna does believe this is true, the word that stuck in her throat was not save but shame.”

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Can you recommend any other historical fiction books that take place during this time period? I seem to always gravitate to it.

five-stars

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Book Title/Author: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Publisher/Year
:  Plume 2012
Genre: Mystery/historical fiction – Adult Fiction
Series
: No
Other Books From Author: The Violets of March, The Bungalow

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Jio’s website |

I checked this out from my wonderful library. LIBRARIES ARE COOL, y’all!

 

 

 

Told in alternating perspectives, Blackberry Winter tells the story of two woman, decades apart, but whose stories become intertwined when a freak weather phenomenon in May, a blackberry winter, unearths an unsolved kidnapping from the 1930s. Vera Ray is a single mother who is struggling to pay rent with her low paying job as a maid at a ritzy hotel. With no way to pay for childcare, she tucks her three year old son in bed to work the night shift, only to return home to discover that there has been a freak snowstorm and Daniel has gone missing with only his favorite teddy bear left behind. Almost 80 years later, Claire, a reporter and wife in the midst of a failing marriage, wakes up to Seattle covered in snow and her boss wanting a great feature connecting the blackberry winter of today to the one in 1933. Claire finds the story of the missing child that went unsolved and sets out to find out what happened as Vera’s story becomes personal to her — even more so than she’d ever realized.

I really, really loved Blackberry Winter! It was a captivating story that and has made me a huge Sarah Jio fan with just one book. The way the two women’s stories were intertwined and told in alternating chapters really worked for me as I learned more about each women & their life in smaller pieces — which really piled on the suspense! I was so invested in both Vera & Claire’s stories that I’d finish one chapter and be all, “Oh man! I don’t want to switch perspectives” but then immediately be absorbed in the other woman’s story.I loved learning about Vera’s back story and how she became a single mother (umm rather swoony and then completely heartbreaking) while simultaneously learning more about what happened to her and Daniel through Claire’s investigation. That storyline REALLY got to me and Sarah Jio knows how to deliver bits of answers in a way that you can’t help but hastily read because you really care so much about what happened.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to really connect with Claire with the nature of the fact that so much of what she does in the book is help us learn more about Vera and Daniel but Sarah Jio really made her into a character I loved as she had so many of her own heartbreaking issues to deal with that really drew her to this story. While obviously her investigation about Vera was the shining storyline, I thought that Claire’s marital issues and the unfortunate accident that happened in their life was really interesting and I loved the healing that went on throughout the story in different ways. The only thing that I will say is that sometimes I thought things were a little bit too much of a coincidence but not in a way that really detracted from the story at all. But besides that, this book was fantastic & I’ll be reading all of her books!

 

Blackberry Winter was the perfect blend of mystery and historical fiction, laced with romance, and a serious page-turner. The  pieces of the mystery were revealed in that way that just makes on ravenous and the two intertwined stories were heartbreaking and beautiful. Truly a moving story that will leave you a bit misty-eyed while reading about Vera’s story — both through the back story & Claire’s investigation. Sarah Jio has just such smooth & exquisite writing — the unraveling of the mystery, the scenes that make your heart ache, the amazing characterization & more — it was just all so deftly and wonderfully written. Even if you typically don’t read adult fiction, I’d recommend still checking this one out!

 

You May Also Like: Kate MortonLucinda Riley, The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rassmussen (it has that some sort of amazingly revealed mystery without being an overly “mystery” book — great characters, stories that make a mark on your heart, etc). 

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you guess how they were tied together? Have you read either of Sarah Jio’s other novels?  Which one should I tackle next?

four-stars

Review: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

The Bird Sisters: A NovelBook/Author: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
Publisher/Year: Crown Publishing April 2011
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss,  are known as “the bird sisters” and their home serves as a place where people bring injured birds to be nursed back to health. The “bird sisters” weren’t always destined towards a path of seclusion and spinsterhood…until one summer that alters the direction of their lives.

The story gracefully moves between the present and haunting memories from their childhood. The bulk of the memories take place in the span of the summer of 1947 when Milly and Twiss are teenagers and becomes the turning point to paving the path that leads to where they are now as spinsters. Immediately I was invested in the lives of Milly and Twiss and had such a desire to know how they ended up so alone when it seemed like they had a lot going for them. I think that was the most heart-wrenching part– knowing how they ended up and needing to find out why. The details of the events that summer were revealed ever so carefully and evenhandedly that it kept you reeling until you are given the answers to what had happened. And let me tell you– it was shocking, heartbreaking and beautiful — simultaneously. I had goosebumps as we finally learned what happened in the most pivotal moment that summer.

Milly and Twiss are two of the most quirky and unforgettable characters that I’ve encountered in a while. They were developed so finely and with great precision and I just fell completely in love with them. I found a lot of the other characters to be interesting as well. Cousin Bett was that character that you just wanted to slap silly yet I kept wondering what her story was. The characters personalities were so perfectly melded together with the plot that I just kept thinking of how perfect of a book this was. Milly and Tilly are definitely the shining stars but what I loved is that they aren’t always brave, or always right or strong…they were so real and were perfect in their own ways.

For the most part I can honestly say this book was flawless for me, but I must confess, there were a few parts where it took me a little bit to figure out if we were back in the past or in the present although I was able to deduce after a page or so. The parts in the present, in the heads of the older Milly and Twiss, were a little slower moving for me but it definitely balanced out the story well.

My Final Thought:
I would recommend this to anybody looking for the perfect combination of unforgettable characters, a carefully crafted and revealed plot with a layer of surprises and undeniably beautiful prose that you find yourself savoring with each page. Seriously, this book charmed the socks off of me, broke my heart and mentally shelving this book under “books that remind me why I love the written word.” It wasn’t overwrought in emotion or drama nor was it the type of book that was trying too hard to BE something profound. It felt real and was definitely a breath of fresh air for me.

four-stars
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